I remember the year I finally lost all the extra weight I'd been carrying around as a teen.
I say 'year' because I have no memory of waking up on one particular day feeling skinnier or finally, being able to zip up the pair of jeans that normally wouldn't go past my hips.
The physical changes happened over 6 to 12 months, once I'd started to be consistent with exercising and getting my food portions right. They happened gradually and were so subtle that they mostly went unnoticed until I saw a photo of myself that a friend had taken of me at a party that made me go "Oh wow. I look really different now."
I had reached my goal without even realizing it, because inside, I still felt like the ugly, chubby girl whose self-esteem was at level 0.
I didn't know it at the time, but although technically, I'd achieved my weight-loss goal, I was doomed to regain all the weight I'd lost and more. Why? Because I was so focused on changing that one part of me--on losing the weight--that I forgot about the rest of me.
Six years later, as my life circumstances changed and I allowed stress got the better of me, I found myself back at square one: More than 20 pounds overweight and feeling like a slave to the food around me, thanks to my out-of-control food cravings.
Now looking back, I wish I had taken the 3 steps I'm about to share with you, much earlier so that I could've saved myself plenty of pain and confusion. I'm not trying to discount the fact that the best way to learn is to learn from your mistakes (as I did), but if I can help you avoid making those same mistakes, I will:
Work on your mind as much as you work on your body
Yes, exercising and eating the right foods matter.
But...no matter how many cycle classes you go for, or glasses of green juice you drink, if you're not simultaneously working on strengthening your mind, it's likely that the results you're after won't last for very long.
I'm talking about: Negative, self-deprecating thoughts that tear down your self-belief and lead to self-sabotage or even those feelings of worthlessness that constantly hold you back from giving yourself the kind of love and care that you deserve.
The best remedy for that negative monkey mind that just can't seem to shut up? Set aside 15-30 minutes each day to do ONE thing that will help shape up your thoughts: It could be reading an inspiring blog post, book or listening to a podcast, and then putting what you've learned into practice.
Focus less on dieting and more on why you're eating
Whenever I'm approached by someone who's struggling with their weight, I'll inevitably get asked this question: "I want to lose weight. What should I eat?"
What I really want them to do instead is to go inward with this question: "Why on earth am I eating the way I am?"
If you find yourself reaching for way too much food at almost every meal, your desire to eat probably isn't driven by physical hunger--it's an emotional need that you're trying to fill with food. The emotions that trigger this 'hunger' can vary from person to person, and range from anger, sadness, boredom, stress and anxiety to even happiness.
To keep these bouts of overeating under control, I make mindful eating, which helps me stay aware and present during my meals, a priority.
- Asking myself if I'm truly physically hungry before I eat,
- doing my best to make sure that what's on my plate is made up of mostly fresh, unprocessed foods, and
- eating at a pace that allows me to enjoy my food and stop when I'm no longer hungry, not stuffed.
Have a goal that has nothing to do with weight loss
I made a huge mistake my first time out losing weight, and that mistake was this: Focusing on nothing but the weight loss.
All I wanted was to be skinnier and smaller, and because of this, I skipped the most important step in the weight-loss process: Not figuring out why I wanted to be that way or how it would make my life better (other than look good).
Here's what I found years later, when the weight started creeping back on: Once the chaos and stress of every-day life got the better of me, my priorities started to shift from looking good to seeking comfort, and because my goal wasn't compelling or meaningful enough, it did absolutely NOTHING to stop me from inhaling the jar of cookies, reaching for that 3rd glass of wine or skipping my workouts.
My habits started to change and stick only when I dug deeper to set goals that I truly gave a sh*t about:
- A desire to feel nourished, energized and confident; not bloated, sluggish, guilty and generally crappy after my meals.
- Being able to focus on living my life and being present instead of constantly obsessing over how I looked because of the extra weight I'm carrying around.
- Going to sleep and not having to wake up in the middle of the night sweating and feeling like throwing up because I'd eaten too much, or had too much to drink.
My body, health and life started to change only when my end-goal changed from weight loss to how I wanted to live.
Get started on your own journey of mindful eating and weight loss with Michele's FREE, Lose 4 Pounds in 4 Weeks Without Going On A Diet course.
Photo credit: Alexander Shustov